I watched Nat Geo’s American Blackout last night. Yes, I know I’m a bit behind the times as American Blackout premiered last year. Hey, I don’t watch a lot of TV. This was on my “to watch” list, and I finally got around to it last night. BOY! This is NOT the show to see if you do not want to be completely freaked out! I found myself wondering what I would do. I have some supplies on hand as part of my earthquake prep, I live in California after all, but I am no where near as “prepared” as the prepper featured in the show. He had over 2 years worth of food, months of water and fuel, and he still had problems. Preppers prepare for unlikely situations, but one thing many forget is that preppers are also prepared for less extreme situations.
Some of you may be thinking that you won’t live through a crazy, apocalyptic, world-wide disaster situation, so you don’t need to prepare for one. If we experience a disaster of that magnitude, many people will die. Maybe even most people. But the truth is, most of us are unlikely to face a “zombie apocalypse” or other extreme “end of the world as we know it” scenario.
You will likely face at least ONE of these scenarios in your lifetime: unemployment, power outage, water shortage (due to contamination or other cause), flooding, large snowstorm making travel difficult, violent thunderstorm, tornado, earthquake, or a hurricane. My parents had a power outage for several days in the Washington DC area due to storms bringing down trees which in turn brought down power lines. Can you live without power for 3 days? How about a week? Back to the show, as I evaluated my own preparedness level, I recognized certain struggles people had.
Here are a few particularly problematic ones.
– No extra water – People didn’t have water to drink, let alone water to bathe, clean dishes, their clothes, etc. When they first lost power, they didn’t think to fill extra containers with water. Some of the water people managed to get was not clean, and they didn’t have any way to disinfect the water.
– Little or no shelf stable food – Most people didn’t have much to eat in their homes, and most of what they had was stored in the refrigerator and freezer. Once the power was gone, they had to eat their food or lose it. After their cold food was gone, they didn’t have much else.
– No easy way to prepare food – Many people didn’t have a way to prepare food without a working stove, oven or microwave. Some people didn’t have a non-electric can opener.
– People expected the government and aid organizations to provide immediate relief and rescue – There were some college kids stuck in an elevator, and they waited for days to escape, because they thought someone would rescue them. One of the yuppy characters lamented that no one was coming to help her. When a large scale disaster hits, it takes time for governments and organizations to respond. It took a week or longer for water and food to be distributed on a broad scale in this fictional account, but it is considered a pretty accurate depiction by experts.
– When people are hungry or thirsty, some become violent – Some individuals hurt and killed others for food and water.
– Hostility toward and lack of compassion for others – As survival mode kicked in, most people’s views contracted. They thought only of themselves and their families. This is natural to want to provide for those closest to you, but many went beyond that myopic view and became hostile toward others. Those with supplies didn’t want to help others, and they were unkind and didn’t try to build relationships that would have been helpful in the long term.
So… Yeah… A lot to think about. While I don’t know exactly what I will do if faced with a disaster of that magnitude, I can’t help but wonder what I can do to better prepare. My thoughts strayed from the traditional mentality to considering ways to make life BETTER DURING the emergency. Thrive, not just to survive it. I came up with four suggestions. (If you want to read some more “traditional” ways, check out my posts on earthquake preparedness here and here.)
– Build a support system NOW with family, neighbors, and friends – Don’t wait for a disaster to strike to start building relationships. A strong support system is key to survival when emergencies hit. I am not best friends with every single one of my neighbors, but I know most of my close neighbors (I live in a pretty large neighborhood). I’ve even talked with a couple of them about what we would do if an earthquake (or other big emergency) hit. I plan to join together with those neighbors and others who are willing to pool resources and work and weather the storm together. If it’s an earthquake, I’ll look out for them, and I know those neighbors will look out for me and my family.
– Learn skills that will improve your quality of life during an emergency – Do you know how to prepare simple, delicious meals using basic ingredients? Do you know how to sterilize water with bleach or iodine? Do you know how to cook with non-traditional cooking sources such as your camp stove or baking peach cobbler in a dutch oven? I know it’s not going to be all fun and games is there’s a major disaster, but wouldn’t it be nice if you could eat a hot meal with a freshly baked roll or to have dessert? That may be a frivolous thought to some, but life is meant to be enjoyed, not just lived.
If you don’t know how to do that now, you won’t be able to do it when quick meals, bread, and desserts are no longer available at your store. Think about one food you would really miss in an emergency and learn the skills necessary to prepare it on your own. Practice making it until you’ve mastered it. Make sure you have a printed copy of your recipe. You don’t have to cook it every day or at all once you’ve mastered the skill. BUT having the skills will give you the peace of mind that you know how to care for yourself (and your family) until help arrives.
– Have non-electric entertainment on hand – If there’s an emergency there will be work to be done (cooking, cleaning, etc.), but it is very important for our mental health to have a release and some down time. Games can foster good relationships and help bring some normalcy back in crazy situations. Look at your stash of games (if you have one). Does it need updating? Do you have at least one or two games you could play over and over and over again? Start with a deck of cards. If you want more, consider a group game. One of our favorite games is “The Game Of Things.” It’s different every time you play, and we love it!
– Have a communication/meet-up plan – How are you and your family going to get in touch with each other if there’s no electricity, no phone service, no Internet? If you’re not together 24/7, come up with a plan. Have a primary and secondary place to meet in the event of an emergency. Have a contact person out of your area who is willing to serve as a point person. You may not be able to communicate directly with your family members, but, barring a nationwide emergency, you will probably be able to reach your out of town contact who can relay information to others.
This is just a short list, but it’s a good start. Do you have any ideas to add?
What do you think will make life more enjoyable during an emergency (other than the traditional food, water, heating, cooling, etc.)?
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